Clean dishes, much like clean linens and floors, aren’t necessarily top of mind for most hospital patients in for treatments. But in an environment where viruses and infections are commonplace, spots on a glass or dried up food on a fork can certainly harm a hospital’s reputation for sanitary best practices. Washing dishes isn’t the most glamorous part of the kitchen service, but it is highly important, and needs to be done well and efficiently. That’s where flight-type warewashers play a key role. These machines run thousands of dishes per hour, and a combination of wash tanks and a high-temperature rinse ensure every piece comes out sanitized and ready to go right back into service.
Improved Water, Energy Use
Running high quantities of dishes through a dishmachine several times a day requires a good amount of water and energy. But flight-type warewashers have seen some innovations in design over the past few years that have drastically cut down on the amount of water needed to run through each use, as well as lower energy consumption. One of the most impactful improvements is in the amount of water being used.
In older machines, the final rinse cycle used more than 300 gal. of water an hour. Today, many flight-type warewashers have reduced that number to 58 gal. of water per hour, due in part to a number of improvements, including high-pressure nozzles through the wash cycle, automated pre-wash cycles and more spacing on the conveyor to improve how thoroughly the dishes get cleaned before they get to the final rinse. Using less water during the sanitation stage is not only good for water conservation policies, but also uses less energy, because you don’t have to heat as much water to the 180°F final rinse temp.
Other innovations help keep the water cleaner as the dishes move from one section of the machine to the next, and improve both the energy efficiency and water use in flight-types. In some models, it’s active filtration, or an additional mechanical filter. Active filtration collects food residue from the wash water and periodically washes it out of the tanks, with no need for any additional water. Other models have implemented a soil removal system that consists of a dedicated spray zone to remove large scrap items, oil and grease. By keeping water in the wash tanks cleaner, the machine requires fewer refills throughout the day and less water overall. Cleaner water also helps reduce the amount of detergent needed in the wash cycle.
One company introduced a technology that senses where dishes are on the belt, deploying water in pre-rinse sprays only over dishes, not empty areas on the belt. Employees doing smaller loads at off times can load dishes on one-third or two-thirds of the belt and the sensor senses where dishes are and only sprays water in the dish-occupied areas. Green lights coach staffers where to load on the belts.
In addition to water conservation, manufacturers have developed new features that help reduce overall energy consumption. Many flight-type warewashers come with automatic shut-off features, which turn the machine off if it’s been idle for a period of time. Heat recovery systems are another huge design development that’s been in use for a few years now. These systems capture the steam heat generated by the hot water used in the wash and final rinse cycles, and rather than letting it escape into a condensate hood, collects it, runs it over a heat exchange coil system and uses the heat to warm incoming water to the machine. The heat recovery system takes cold water to about 110°F-125°F. What that means is that, once the machine gets going after the initial tank fill, you can use colder water from outside and a smaller booster heater that uses less energy to get to wash and rinse temps (about 140°F and 180°F respectively). Different systems capture and use different amounts of steam, with some exchangers using about 35% of the energy from waste air to heat incoming water. Others can capture near 100% of the waste heat. Capturing wet steamy effluent also means blower dryers work less hard to get dishes dry.
For improved energy efficiency, look for smart boosters which contain multiple heating elements. As more energy circulates, the elements modulate based on need, using fewer elements the longer the system runs.
Choosing The Right Setup
One of the benefits of flight-type warewashers is they are highly customizable, so you can get the features and type of system that works best for your operation. But also, it means there are a lot of decisions to make when specifying this equipment. While most institutions are looking for sturdy equipment that will handle a lot of runs every day for long periods of time, hospitals have a few other special considerations.
• High temp over low temp. Flight-types come in either option, but high-temp machines use high heat rather than chemicals to sanitize dishes, and are the type recommended for hospitals.
• Include a pre-wash tank. Because trays might sit in halls for a period of time before making it down to the wash area, include a pre-wash to loosen up food particles and start dissolving fats.
• Choose a longer center section or additional wash tank for added heat during the wash cycle.
• Include at least one blower dryer at the unloading area. Many hospitals use a lot of plastic ware, which doesn’t flash dry like ceramic materials. Blower dryers aid in drying and get dishes, trays and other plastic wares back into circulation quicker without dripping all over the floor.
Other things to consider when researching flight-type warewashers are features or specifications that vary depending on the operation itself. For example, some conveyor belts allow for customized peg spacing to maximize the efficiency based on the types of wares that will be used. Also, consider the size of wares when looking at the height and width of the machine’s opening. A good rule of thumb is to make sure it’s big enough to accommodate about 90% of the total wares used. You don’t need to go with a larger size just for one extra-large sheet pan, but be aware, if the sheet pans don’t fit, your dishroom employees will lay them flat and block the sprayers unless you train them to hand wash them.
You also can dictate the length of the loading and unloading area. Make sure to allow space for enough dishes to accumulate so that once the warewasher is put into use it can run efficiently, and isn’t being used for just a few dishes. Then allow enough space at the end so that wares don’t pile up waiting to be unloaded.
While you’re designing the flight-type warewasher for your operation, take into consideration the facility itself. Do you have enough space to accommodate the washer, as well as room for the staff needed to keep things going at optimal speed? General recommendations allow for at least 8 ft. on the front and back end for loading and unloading, with about 3 ft. on at least one side for operators to have room to move around. If you plan to have staff on both ends of the warewasher you’ll need the 3-ft. clearance on both sides.
Some manufacturers offer a slimmer version than the standard width for facilities that are short on space. This allows for additional room on the side of the washer for operators or for carts to easily move back and forth.
Ventilation is key to a comfortable work environment. Even with heat recovery systems and good insulation, warewashers produce heat and steam that can be uncomfortable if not managed well. Also, make sure floor drains are plentiful and properly positioned.
Providing the appropriate energy and water also is important. Whether the washer is 480V or 280V, or steam generating, there should be enough energy for the amp draw. You’ll need hot and cold water supplies, and to evaluate the quality of the water. If your water is hard (and you should have it tested), you’d be smart to invest in a water softener; hard water can build up limescale on heating elements, inadvertently insulating them, and scale can clog wash arms as well.
Protecting Your Investment
Many manufacturers offer on-site training to ensure employees know exactly what to do when it comes to loading dishes, emptying scrap buckets, emptying and replacing screens and filters, and performing daily maintenance on the machine. Some manufacturers color-code parts of the machine that need to be cleaned on a daily basis to help guide employees. Features such as auto-cleaning and auto-deliming aid in the maintenance process and save labor in the long run.
Some flight-type warewashers now include self-diagnostics that alert the operator of necessary maintenance, as well as monitor the amount of water used and the temperatures during wash and rinse cycles. Keeping the system clean ensures everything works at peak performance, providing the highest level of efficiency for clean dishes.
There are many choices and options available when designing a flight-type dishmachine. With a little research and the direction of a manufacturers’ rep you can get the machine that will best serve your operation for years to come.
TIPS TO GET THE RIGHT FLIGHT-TYPE
• Make sure to communicate early and often with your sales rep to design the right machine for your operation.
• Think about your needs now as well as where your facility will be 10 years from now, so your washer will be able to accommodate expanding services.
• Submit samples of your dishware to ensure the doors and openings are the appropriate size, as well as to design peg placement on the conveyor belt.
• Don’t let budget constraints keep you from looking at the benefits of features that will provide long-term ROI. For example, a heat recovery system will add to the overall initial cost, but could save thousands in energy expenses.
ENERGY STAR CAVEATS
The Energy Star classification has become a trusted label industry-wide; it helps assure you the equipment you’re purchasing meets certain industry standards of energy efficiency and water conservation. When researching flight-type warewashers, keep in mind the Energy Star classification measures idle energy rates and water consumption based on the amount of water during the final rinse cycle. The 58 gal. per hour water use might sound great, but that doesn’t take into account the hundreds of gallons of water used to fill the wash tanks. Also, keep in mind that Energy Star ratings are based on the machine’s performance in optimal situations. The actual water and energy use in real-time might differ.
In 2018, Energy Star will release a new version of guidelines that effectively characterize the total energy profile, analyzing performance data of both washing and idle settings. Many manufacturers have already taken this into consideration, but the new guidelines will help.
Insinger Machine Co.
Jackson Warewashing Systems
For more flight-type makers, please visit the FER Buyers Guide at fermag.com.
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